Can Australian manufacturing compete globally?
According to those in the know the answer is yes.
But Australian manufacturing will need to undergo a radical face lift. The once proud car assembly industry has been consigned to that great wrecker's yard in the sky. The mining boom is now more of a 'ping!' And any attempt to mass produce pretty much anything locally is only undertaken by those without access to news or internet. As a nation Australia has simply stopped being competitive on any grand scale.
We're a high maintenance lot
That's basically the problem; our workers simply refuse to work for nothing. They expect to be paid and to be paid reasonably well. What they fail to realise is that every extra dollar they earn bumps up the cost of plastic bottles, frozen peas and mobile phones. Equally exasperating, consumers refuse to pay far more than they need to for mass produced items just so our workers can eat. To exacerbate the problem even more, Australians refuse to breed in sufficient numbers to sustain local production.
Where to from here?
Wherever we can compete or, indeed, excel. And that will largely be as 'micro-nationals.' No, not multi-nationals, micro; small to medium-sized manufacturers with highly specialised products geared to fill international niche markets. We already have some of these companies and they're proving highly successful by simply being fanatically innovative in both products and services.
We can invent markets
Yes, demand needs to be there, but if a product is genuinely unique and unprecedented, the market doesn't know it wants it yet. With the right research and development smart Australian manufacturers can create markets big enough to sustain them, yet too small to interest offshore mass producers. With little or no competition, these manufacturers can enjoy something of a monopoly.
Innovation is the key
Australians are known for innovation. It's happening already. It just needs to happen across a far wider range of local companies on a far grander scale. Then, even if the individual numbers per company are smaller, the grand total will start to smooth out the worry lines on the face lift of Australian manufacturing.